As a business leader you’ve no doubt heard the admonition to “work smarter, not harder.” Maybe the phrase has crossed your own lips a time or two. But is working smarter really about intelligence? Does being the smartest cookie on the business plate guarantee your success?
Best-selling author Travis Bradberry notes that people with the highest levels of intelligence (IQ) outperform those with average IQs just 20 percent of the time, while people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs 70 percent of the time.
Is there something even more important than business smarts? Stephen Covey seemed to think so. In the beginning of Bradberry’s book he wrote: “Research shows convincingly that [Emotional Intelligence] is more important than IQ in almost every role and many times more important in leadership roles. This finding is accentuated as we move from the control philosophy of the industrial age to an empowering release philosophy of the knowledge worker age. Self-awareness, self-motivation, and regulation are foundational to empathy and social skills.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, we are emotional beings and emotions play a huge role in the way business gets done. In fact, decisions are often made based on emotions—and then justified by intellect. What does that mean for a leader? It means leaders can’t lead on the basis of intelligence or data alone. In order to lead effectively, they need to develop their emotional intelligence. That means leaders have to be able to identify, assess, and control the emotions of themselves, of others, and of groups.
Bradberry suggests that there are two basic areas of focus for developing emotional intelligence. First, there is an internal focus. A leader needs to be self-aware: He needs to understand what drives his emotions, decisions, and actions. But it’s not enough to simply recognize this. A leader must also self-manage these emotions: He must learn—not to ignore these emotions, but to control them.
There’s also an external focus. A good leader needs to be socially aware: He needs to have his finger on the pulse of employees and customers in order to understand how and why they act the way they do. But as with the internal focus, awareness isn’t enough. A good leader must also understand relational management: He must be able to manage differing emotional drivers and triggers in order to achieve success.
Some studies indicate that 90 percent of top performers have a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence), and that EQ may be twice as important as IQ in achieving success. In other words, even if you’re the smartest businessperson in the world, if you don’t know why people act the way they do—and can’t motivate them—you’re not going to get very far.
In your business relationships, where do you see emotions affecting decisions that you perhaps think should be completely “logical?”